The True Story Behind ‘The Black Phone’

The Black Phone was a major hit for the horror genre in 2022. Interestingly, however, fans might not realize that there’s something of a true story behind The Black Phone.

Of course, the actual film is based on a short story penned by author Joe Hill. But there are various real world elements that the film’s director ultimately pulled from to create the overall movie. This, of course, includes setting the film in the 1970s.

The time period was specifically inspired by the numerous real-life serial killers that were active in the 70s. One of these serial killers includes John Wayne Gacy, who ultimately became a major influence on The Grabber in The Black Phone. Many true crime aficionados will recognize Gacy for his tendencies to dress up as a clown for kids’ birthday parties.

After the bodies of more than two dozen boys were found in his basement, the serial killer was finally convicted of having killed at least 33 boys on top of acts of sexual abuse and torture. In the original story by Joe Hill, The Grabber happened to similarly be an overweight clown. But given the popularity of Stephen King’s IT at the time, the film’s version of The Grabber was made into a magician.

In an interview with Yahoo!, director Scott Derrickson also explained some of his own personal experiences which went into the film.

“All of the ghost kids are like real kids that I knew,” said Derrickson. “The Robin Arellano character especially. That’s a kid who I was friends with. And some of the things he says in the movie are verbatim things that I remember him saying to me after watching him pulverize this kid’s face behind the Safeway across from our middle school. I felt like I had a good understanding of the various children that could flesh out this movie.”

Of course, despite the personal experiences and true real-life events that inspired the film, The Black Phone is ultimately an original story. In the same way that the classic movie The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was inspired by Ed Gein, however, it shows that sometimes the real world can be just as scary as any film.

The film was directed by Scott Derrickson. He co-wrote the screenplay for the film with C. Robert Cargill, which was based on a short story by author Joe Hill. The movie was produced by Jason Blum, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill with Ryan Turek and Christopher H. Warner as executive producers.

Aside from Ethan Hawke as Grabber, the film’s cast also includes James Ransone, Jeremy Davies, Mason Thames, and Madeleine McGraw.

The Black Phone is available on digital platforms and to own on Blu-ray and DVD. Stay tuned to ScreenGeek for other horror-related updates as we have them.

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